A folklore horror, Blood Harvest depicts how in the mid-1800s a community of Irish farmers set off on a great pilgrimage to America in hope of a better life, searching for land upon which they could start afresh. However, for those who still live in the village 100 years later, time has come to a halt, technology hasn’t advanced and crops have failed to grow. In their small community every day is an endless struggle, with little to show for their efforts and their survival under constant threat.
Occultist Agatha Earnshaw (Catherine Walker) is the exception though. She seems to effortlessly grow a bounty on her farmland all year round, much to the distaste of others. Has she made a deal with the devil like the villagers suspect? The truth lies with her hidden daughter Audrey (Jessica Reynolds) who, as she reaches maturity, strives to use her abilities in more powerful ways. When strange and twisted events begin to occur, collective fears escalate and it becomes uncertain how much longer this secret will remain concealed.
As nightmares descend on the village, Thomas Robert Lee’s thriller thrusts the viewer into blood-curdling chaos. The film is made all the more unnerving by the performance of Reynolds as the dangerously spiritual Audrey, displaying innocence and a terrifying endearment that shakes the audience to their cores as she becomes stronger and more determined. Walker also impresses as the conflicted Agatha desperate to protect her child from being discovered, but in the process suffering at the hands of the brutish members of society.
All the more unsettling is where and how the movie is set. Thanks to the work of cinematographer Nick Thomas, life appears incredibly grim, harsh and soulless in the cold, barren wastelands of the North American settlement, establishing this feature as the perfect folklore picture despite it taking place in the late 20th Century. Though it is set in 1973, the horror and its characters look no different from their historic predecessors. As technology barely improves, their way of life is unnerving to witness in such a recent period. Even the arrival of a modern car to the region becomes an unusual and disturbing sight – suddenly reminding the viewer of just how peculiar and out of touch this settlement really is with the rest of the world.
There are a few problems with Blood Harvest, however. As frightening a concept as local cult mythology can be, the film lacks a sharp injection of scream-inducing terror to really shake the viewer’s bones; the scenes of freezing temperatures cause more shivers than the events unraveling on screen. There are also moments where the observer may find themselves lost in the narrative, This could be attributed to the lack of dialogue at points as well as to the overwhelming strangeness oozing from some shots. The visuals are certainly magical, but some of these abstract sequences are not explained efficiently enough to reveal their purpose or the direction in which the plot is headed. Nevertheless, the story runs at just over 90 minutes, making it easy to lose one’s self in the expansive world that Lee has created and ignore these few foibles, particularly if you are a fan of the genre.
Blood Harvest is released nationwide on 16th November 2020.
Watch the trailer for Blood Harvest here: